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Why Is Dick a Funny Word?

February 19, 2018

Why is dick funny? Even Dick Van Dyke wants to know. (image via wikimedia)

When a car on the freeway cut me off and braked hard, I yelled out, “You dick!”  My daughter and her friends sitting in the back seat laughed.  Later on, when I directed profanity at other cars with drivers breaking traffic laws, my daughter and her friends had no reaction.  It was like I had said nothing at all.  Only the word dick got a reaction.

Maybe I shouldn’t have said dick in front of teenage girls, but they all have cell phones and watch YouTube videos, so they’ve heard worse.  And I don’t think it was just a girl thing to laugh at the word dick.  It’s universal.

Years ago I witnessed the same thing at a theatre performance of A Christmas Carol.  When Scrooge was reminiscing about Christmases in the past and his kind boss Dick Wilkins, Scrooge said something like:

“Poor Dick, dear Dick!”

And the audience laughed.  It was universal laughter, men and women alike.  We weren’t finding amusement in Scrooge’s anguish.  We were laughing at the name Dick.

When I walked into B&M Booksellers and announced loudly “I need a copy of Moby Dick,” I saw three people laugh.  I’m sure there were more, but I didn’t see them.

When I said, “I’m looking for War and Peace,” I got nothing.

When I said, “I’m looking for Les Miserables,” I got nothing.  I even mispronounced Les Miserables, calling it Less MiseraBULLS.  I even complained that the cover misspelled the word Less.  Nothing.

But saying Moby Dick?  Big laughs.

If I ever become a comedian, I can build a routine around saying the word dick.  I’m not obsessed with dick or anything.  I just think it’s funny that people laugh at it.  If my jokes aren’t funny or if I start dry-heaving in front of the crowd, I can just say dick and get a laugh.  Then again,  the dry-heaving alone might be funny and I won’t have to resort to dick.

I can see why the word dick is funny.  It’s short and rhymes with –ick, and it’s a word that represents a body part you don’t see in public very often.  They kind of look funny and useless, and they’re located on an inconvenient part of the body, and they can put us in awkward situations.  Some people even claim too many men think with them.

Half the population thinks dick funny because they don’t have one.  The other half thinks it’s funny because they have to deal with it all the time.  It causes problems like manspreading, but if you try to explain that to a woman at the wrong time, you can get arrested or sued.

Most comedians claim that all humor has an element of truth to it.  If that’s the case, there has to be some truth in dick.  Saying it in just about any context will make somebody crack up.

For most of my life, I’ve believed that only guys should be called dicks, but I’ve since changed my mind.  Because there seems to be a thing called gender fluidity now, and I don’t want to seem like I’m stuck in the past, I will call anybody a dick, whether he’s male or female.  To be fair, we should either call nobody dicks or call everybody dicks, and dick is too good of a word to give up, so I choose to use it on everybody who behaves like a dick.

The way I see it, if people can choose their own genders today, then I can call anybody a dick.  Dick is not a state of being, like gender, so self-identification has nothing to do with it anyway.  Dick is a matter of behavior; your actions determine whether or not you’re a dick, and some women can be just as much of a dick as men.

A woman who acted like a dick used to be called a bitch, but nobody laughs at the word bitch.  Dick has an endearing quality, and bitch is just plain mean.  If I were a woman, I’d rather be called a dick than a bitch, but maybe that’s sexist and I don’t realize it.

At an rate, dick is funny.  If you don’t believe me, go to your local B&M Bookseller and ask the sales clerk if he has a Ragged Dick.  You’ll get a reaction.  It might not be a laugh, but you’ll get a reaction.

  1. I enjoyed this bit of satire!

    Funny enough, I could be wrong, but I think this is an American thing. My European friends and I often joke that American comedy and Americans’ sense of humour seems to be centered around dick jokes and fart jokes.

    I’m Jamaican, and we tend to prize wit, and have more of a British sense of humour. A perfect example was just yesterday. Shared a witty joke with one of my American colleagues. Had me cracking up for about 10 minutes. His response was “meh”. Shared it on Facebook and fellow Jamaicans thought it was perfectly hilarious, but not a peep from my American friends. Similarly, American comedy tends to get a meh from me, most times. I’m rolling my eyes, and my American husband is rolling on the floor.

    Isn’t it funny how culture can influence something as natural and involuntary as laughter, and what makes us laugh?? Thanks for sharing!

    —- Alex

    • This sounds quite familiar. I have often noticed that in online groups when I applied a German joke: the Brits and the Australians and even the Russians would laugh aloud while the Americans were mainly pissed off. Once, I told a joke about Americans to a colleague whose father was American. Much later she said that she had passed it on to him at the telephone – and he hadn’t spoken to her for a full three weeks after!

      BTW, you may fathom the profundity of our humour by that German folk singer who uses the stage name KING SIZE DICK.

      • How do you say KING SIZE DICK in German?

        I don’t know any German, but that might be a good start.

      • Haha, Russians and Jews do have an interesting sense of humour, quite similar to us Jamaicans I have found. They have mastered the art of “taking a bad thing, make joke” as we say in Jamaica.

        I do notice that Germans are fixated on “dick” in general, though not necessarily for humour. I was discussing this with a friend only recently, and I ended up confessing, “I have never met a German who didn’t try to show me his dick”. Could just my experience lol, but another of my friends (also Jamaican, and now married to a Dutchman) had the same experience every time she tried to date a German haha. Any explanations?? I would love to hear it!

        — Alex

    • “My European friends and I often joke that American comedy and Americans’ sense of humour seems to be centered around dick jokes and fart jokes.”-

      There’s probably a lot of truth in that. My favorite dick joke, however, is probably the Biggus Dickus scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian, so even the British could do an occasional dick joke pretty well.

      • Haha, I haven’t seen that scene, but I will say that the British know Americans well and often cater to the audience to boost views. A great example of that was how they Americanized Kingsman 2, in hopes of reaching more Americans. The first one will always be better, to me. 🙂

  2. Loved every bit of it! I can quite agree with it. If someone came up to me and just said the word, and went away, I would still laugh. Or better still, snigger.

  3. I often say that everyone is a dickhead sometimes, but the difference between us is if you admit you are.

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